“Tattoo on the skin of time”

Serendipity is always lurking around the corner to jump unsuspecting into the path of daily routine. This past week the spirit jumped out once more to provide a jaunt into the historical dimension.

I made contact with Lucas Natali who is researching Tie-Dye in the counterculture He is interested in the origins of tie-dye among hippies, culminating in its first public prolific splash of color at the Woodstock Festival in 1969. In searching through my notes on the Diggers and their role in the introduction of tie-dyeing into the Haight-Ashbury scene, I ran across a reference to Luna Moth in one of the bibliographic listings of Peter Berg’s writings. Luna Moth was one of the key people who brought the ancient art of Tie-Dye to life and taught people at the Trip Without A Ticket free store in 1967 how to create the beautiful fabrics that became the hallmark of the counterculture.

The reference in the bibliography of Peter’s writings was to an article titled “Trucking Into New England” and it was included in Jodi Palladini’s (aka Luna Moth’s) book Roll Your Own (co-edited with Beverly Dubin). I had never heard of this piece of writing by Peter so I was eager to track it down. Fortunately, the Summer of Love Archives book collection had a copy. Looking through it at first I was stymied. None of the chapters are attributed to particular authors. I didn’t find any chapter with the exact title “Trucking Into New England” but finally at the very end of the book is a listing of “Credits” and in the smallest print that these septuagenarian eyes can discern was this notation: “Newsletter, pp. 167-9: Peter Berg.” Here is what is on those two pages:

If the Credits were hard on the eyes, this was worse. No wonder I passed it by the first time through looking through the book for Peter’s piece. If you read it (see enlarged images of the individual pages, below) indeed it does sound like a newsletter. The title that was transcribed for Peter’s bibliography is actually the first part of the first sentence: “Trucking into New England with video letters from the planetarian West!”

Here then is a most rare document. Peter’s four-page letter back to Luna Moth is a first-person account of the caravan that the family of Diggers undertook in 1971 heading out from the Red House in Forest Knolls to points easterly and roundabouts. Coyote talked about this in his book. But I had never seen an account written at the time. The “Homeskin” manifesto, yes. But “Trucking …” is not so much a manifesto as a journal account of some of the scenes they encountered. Read it to understand the idea that would eventually lead back to San Francisco and the founding of Planet Drum as one of the Bioregional Movement’s nerve centers.

I will post all four pages below at high enough resolution that even septuagenarians can read the content easily. But here is the one paragraph I want to highlight in this celebration of serendipitous moments:

“Showing tapes the next night was an enormous-sized intimate event. Video tape reflects the real-time surface of life processes and events, and unedited tape stretches past the usual span of filmic attention to make a tattoo on the skin of time. We watched tribal home movies pulling together consciousness from both sides of the continental divide.”

That’s IT! “Tattoo on the skin of time” is a perfect description of Peter’s cinematic sense of everyday “life processes and events.” Not only is it the apt description of the video letters that Peter was filming on the Homeskin Caravan in 1968, but it can also be seen as the underlying aesthetic to describe the other important film project that he produced—NOWSREAL. That was the movie that Peter Berg and Kelly Hart filmed in 1968 in the last three months of Free City, three years before the Homeskin Caravan. I finally have the perfect description for NOWSREAL to use on that page in the Digger Archives—”a tattoo on the skin of time.”

2 thoughts on ““Tattoo on the skin of time””

  1. In LA 1966/7 tye-dye Annie was killing it at “the Farm”. Teaching folks and creating sensational work. John Sebastian “Dok” DeWilde The Firesign Theatre and many others were wearing.

    1. Mr. Kornsplan, I’m researching a history of tie-dye in the counterculture. I’d love to talk with you if you have any stories about tie-dye or knew Annie, Maureen or any of the others at The Farm. I’ve done multiple interviews, with John Sebastian, Dok deWilde and others. Thanks! Lucas Natali 631.506.9490 lfnatali@gmail.com

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